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Living in Society

When Fools Rush In

Atmospheric Haze

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” was written by Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism in 1711. I’m no angel yet it’s time to let the dust settle from the disastrous general election before devising schemes to react to the loss.

With two key races waiting for certification of results, for president and for the Second Congressional District, we should be in no hurry to implement solutions when we don’t understand the problems. We can wait for the haze to dissipate so we can survey the landscape in better light.

The delays provide needed time to collect data and discuss the future of Democratic politics in Iowa. Brainstorming of solutions is to be expected, politically active Democrats will not be suppressed. Settling on a course of action should wait at least until the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party is elected and has a chance to organize their team.

As recently as a few hours ago National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters in the Philippines, “On Jan. 20 we’ll have continuity of government. We’ll either have a second Trump term or we’ll have a Biden-Harris administration.” Republican elected officials have begun to weigh in that it will be the latter and transition assets should be released by the GSA. The president’s legal challenges to the election have proven in court to be like the slight of hand trick of an aging carnival magician in the last weeks before leaving to winter in Florida. There will be a 46th president.

The recount in the Mariannette Miller-Meeks – Rita Hart contest is ongoing. It’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out. In a press release last night, the Hart campaign said, “The Secretary of State’s office has repeatedly made clear that the Recount Boards have discretion over the mechanics of conducting the recount.” As the difference between the two candidates is revealed, and Miller-Meeks loses ground, her campaign questions the integrity of the Recount Board in Scott County, the district’s largest. With Secretary of State certification of the election on Nov. 30, this can only be seen as an attempt to run out the clock before all votes are recounted. We need to let the county boards do their work.

While we wait, a couple of things seem clear.

Centralized political organizing using current technology to text, mail and phone voters did not work for Democrats. Republicans appear to have had the same kinds of tools. Republican political action groups I follow offered the same kinds of volunteer opportunities as did Democrats. In fact, the solicitations for volunteers were almost interchangeable. Neither party seemed short of volunteers. Both parties had the technology to canvass during the coronavirus pandemic.

What we don’t know is whether the organizers were slug-a-beds or whether the electorate has changed. Well, we do know. It’s not the organizing effort that was the problem. The electorate has changed. It’s a change that has been coming for some time and the stark difference between Democrats and Republicans was highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic by the Secretary of State’s decision to send an absentee ballot request to every active voter. Voter turnout was notably high this cycle as a result. As I’ve written before increased absentee voting served Republican interests. If I were the Republican Party chair, I’d lobby the legislature and governor to convert our voting process to universal vote by mail because other factors are driving people to become Republicans in large numbers and vote by mail makes it easier for people to vote. No need to mention this to Jeff Kaufmann. He’s smart enough to see the efficacy of what I’m saying.

Democrats don’t need solutions yet as we don’t adequately understand the problem. I saw an analysis of Iowa voting trends Sunday afternoon and there were no surprises. Counties with less population favor Republicans, larger counties favor Democrats. Those in between appear to be in transition from Democratic to Republican. There is little the Iowa Democratic Party, on its own, can do about this other than to let go of a focus on campaigns and work on improving our cultural presence. That’s not their role.

My colleague Dave Bradley at Blog for Iowa posted an Iowa Democratic Election Post-Mortem on Saturday. In explaining what happened in the general election he points to cultural differences between Democrats and Republicans. Specifically, he discussed the impact of right wing talk radio and television on the electorate after President Ronald Reagan’s FCC abolished the fairness doctrine. The impact of this relatively new media is significant in small and medium-sized counties. President Barack Obama was unsuccessful in putting the genie back in the bottle regarding the policy so we are stuck with FOX News and right wing talkers. Creating left wing talk radio has been attempted yet none of them survived on public air waves and folks like Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann moved to the internet and satellite radio.

The Iowa Democratic Party is not well equipped to address cultural issues in Iowa anyway. The party should focus on key things we’ll need during future election cycles. We need good candidates (we had those in 2020), we need a source of financial support (money didn’t seem to be a problem in 2020), and we need someone to host access to the voter contact software for campaigns and continuously improve the integrity of data and user interface (also did not seem a problem in 2020). Where IDP did poorly was in messaging and to be honest they should just give it up since they and the consultants they engage are no good at it. Messaging is better left to be grassroots driven by candidates familiar with voters in their district, including those who are not Democrats. I’m going to scream if I see another “Bobble-head Bobby” ad out of the minds in Des Moines and Washington, D.C.

It can’t be said enough the dust should settle on this election before getting too carried away with “what Democrats should do,” or “what needs to be worked on,” or “IDP should do this.” For my money, what matters more is collection of observations at this point. What did we see happening that should be addressed? We should let everyone who wants provide input.

The end of year holidays are here and we’re in the middle of a devastating pandemic. Let’s just stop, take a deep breath, and let the folks analyzing the results do their work. Let’s elect a great party chair and let them get organized. It’s not unlike what I’m saying about the Second District recount. For the time being, I’m okay with being a blue dot in my red precinct. There is another opportunity to flip it coming up soon.

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Living in Society

Republicans Sweep Big Grove

Big Grove Precinct, Nov. 3, 2020.

Big Grove Precinct is definitely Republican territory.

Republicans swept the top races in the Nov. 3 general election, choosing Donald Trump as president, Joni Ernst as U.S. Senator, Mariannette Miller-Meeks as U.S. Representative, Bobby Kaufmann as State Representative and Phil Hemingway for County Supervisor. Had there been two more Republicans in the race for county supervisor, they would likely have won here too.

The table below contains the canvassed results in the top four races.

RaceRepublicanDemocrat
PresidentTrumpBiden
671637
U.S. SenateErnstGreenfield
698589
U.S. HouseMiller-MeeksHart
703579
State RepresentativeKaufmannPulkrabek
732574
Johnson County, Iowa Official Canvassed Election Results, Nov. 3, 2020 General Election

Big Grove Township is characterized by its proximity to work. Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Muscatine and the Quad-Cities are all within a daily automobile commute and plenty of people I know here work in all five places. In 1993 we chose to build our home here for this geographical reason. With the comparatively low price of gasoline, it turned out I worked in all of these places except Muscatine.

When I first read the voter list I got from the auditor in the fall I was surprised at how many new names appeared on it. We have become a community with a certain reputation: a strong faith community, good schools, ample employment opportunities, a great library, well maintained infrastructure, and reasonable taxes. Because of this we attract new people, mostly families. As a poll observer for the Democratic Party it hadn’t occurred to me that so many people I didn’t know were voting the Republican ticket. That in-person voters chose President Trump 411 to 128 for Joe Biden is evidence new people moving into the township are mostly Republicans.

Despite few options for high speed internet access, many people in the township work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Last summer the pandemic created a much different social dynamic where neighborhoods became important and neighboring was more common than it had been. Activities that flourished had little to do with politics. I posted a photo of me wearing a Biden Harris t-shirt on my Facebook page. One neighbor commented during an in person conversation they felt likewise but couldn’t do the same because of work relationships connected through social media. While there was a lot of media buzz this cycle, many people kept for whom they were voting private and this affected our everyday interactions by making them apolitical. Until the very end, it was as if there was no election on Nov. 3.

I can’t overstate the impact of the Secretary of State’s decision to mail absentee ballot requests to every active voter. Contrary to conventional wisdom that more people voting favors Democrats, it had the opposite effect. I also noticed long-time Republican-leaning neighbors, who weren’t on my voter list from the auditor, showed up at the polls to register and vote for the first time in years. Republican turnout was huge because of the systemic variance initiated by the Secretary of State.

Something else was afoot. We don’t turn the television on in our house so I can’t assess the impact of television commercials. Like many in my situation I saw political ads on YouTube, social media and internet news sites. I assume others saw them too. Because of the pandemic my provisioning trips have been reduced to less than one per week. When I drove to get provisions I would hear political radio ads. The local newspapers focused on local races with letters to the editor and paid advertising. I felt insulated from the influence of advertising, because of no television, combined with a pro-active method of acquiring news through paid subscriptions to four newspapers and a well-curated Twitter feed. In other words, I saw hardly any advertisements on Facebook or Twitter, and what I saw in local newspapers and heard on the radio informed me of what candidates were doing rather than being any form of persuasion. Whatever may have caused it, and I assume advertising was a big part of it, people were very motivated to vote this cycle.

At this writing President Trump has not conceded the election to Joe Biden who is clearly, unequivocally the winner. The president is challenging the election results in the courts and the effort has thus far fallen flat. I can’t speak to his erratic behavior or his shoddy legal cases, yet it seems clear he has a vague notion derived from the ancient Greek Theater that the Supreme Court will somehow hand him the election deus ex machina. Good luck with that.

I looked at the county results for U.S. Representative in the Second Congressional District and Mariannette Miller-Meeks walloped Rita Hart everywhere except in the most populous counties. The race is too close to call after the counties canvassed the votes so Hart requested a recount on Friday. With a margin of 47 votes, a recount may swing the election to Hart, or it may not.

I have my beefs with the Democratic Party and how they conducted the election effort. My main concern was they provided no support for me to be able to work my precinct the way to which I have been accustomed. When asked how they planned to reach voters without a phone number in the database they provided no substantial answer. When asked to produce a list so I could work my precinct they said they could not. “That’s not how it works,” one organizer told me. The result was I was left to fend for myself, which is pretty much where the results of the election left me, on my own. Even if I had the tools requested I’m not sure I could have flipped the precinct, so my beefs are likely moot.

The friends with which I built a precinct organization beginning in 2004 are aging, dying and moving away. New people arriving are Republican-leaning. Combine that with lack of a coherent Democratic message for voters and the view from today is we will remain a Republican precinct for a long while.

Despite the challenges, I’m not ready to give up. The election hasn’t killed me yet. Here’s hoping it made me strong enough to survive the coronavirus pandemic and fight another day.

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Living in Society

The Coronavirus is Home for the Holidays

Woman Writing Letter

Persistence of the coronavirus pandemic and public reaction to it is appalling. As former chair of the Johnson County Board of Health I know we can do better.

It is the first crisis of this scale we faced in my lifetime. It’s personal. Too many people I know contracted COVID-19 or died from it. As the virus runs out of control, it’s easy to predict more illness and deaths.

Statistical reports show cases of COVID-19 in Iowa increasing dramatically. The number of hospital and ICU patients with COVID-19 is rising. Epidemiologists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say that while there are beds, there is not sufficient staff to support the surge response.

A mistake our leaders made was to politicize our response to the virus.

President Trump all but abandoned working on the pandemic after the election. “The president is holed up in the White House, his public schedule empty, tweeting about how he has won an election that everyone knows he lost,” wrote historian Heather Cox Richardson on Friday. To the extent the president cared about the coronavirus it was a political calculation — a failed attempt to get reelected.

Governor Kim Reynolds has been as bad as the president. Her comments Nov. 10 regarding a targeted mask mandate would be comical if they didn’t endanger Iowans. In the meanwhile Reynolds touted that the state’s rainy day fund remains intact. That’s cold comfort to people having symptoms of COVID-19 who can’t get tested.

We have been left to our own devices. If you don’t wear a mask in public and are planning a large family gathering for the upcoming holidays, you are part of the problem.

Stay home if you can, wear a mask in public. Postpone large holiday gatherings until the virus is under control.

The coronavirus is home for the holidays.

~ This letter appeared in the Nov. 19, 2020 edition of the Solon Economist

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Living in Society

Fall Cleanup 2020

Big Grove Township, Nov. 8, 2020

While returning from a walk in the state park I picked up four yard signs a neighbor placed in their yard. Two of the candidates are poised to win and two are not.

While crossing the street, another neighbor called out but I couldn’t hear them. They walked over to discuss Saturday’s events in the general election. They had considered leaving the country if the president were reelected. Like many in our neighborhood, they keep their politics private. Sigh of relief the president was defeated. They are good neighbors.

After my walk I drove over to a damaged street sign and removed the signs from the pole. It is hard to get the screws loosened so I brought it home to repair in the garage if I can. Leaves are mulched with the mower so the minerals can return to the soil. The smell of neighbors burning leaves permeated the neighborhood. What fall work remains in the yard is optional. Today looks to be in the 70s so it is a chance to work outdoors.

Emails began arriving from groups with which I associate after the election. This one from the Climate Reality Project is typical.

We will mobilize support like never before for federal-level climate policy, and will bolster this with continued state and local-level work, which has been so instrumental in building this movement since 2016. We will persist in fighting for climate justice, by forging partnerships and adding capacity to campaigns that address systemic ways the climate crisis hurts historically marginalized communities. And we will continue to the grow the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, ensuring we have even more voices conveying our clear message. We have the solutions at-hand, and there is no more time to waste.

Ken Berlin, President and CEO, The Climate reality Project

To work on any of the received requests, I had to get organized. Here is what I came up for post-election priorities from an email to friends:

My first Iowa work will be determining a leverage point to advocate for mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus prevents us from organizing as we are accustomed. I plan to follow State Senator Rob Hogg’s lead on this. As you likely know, experts are saying we will be challenged by the virus into 2022. This is a high priority.

I’m working on nuclear arms control issues with the Arms Control Association, and on the climate crisis with the Climate Reality Project. I’m also working with the Sierra Club on the Pattison Sand proposal to pump water from the Jordan Aquifer and ship it to arid western states. However those things dovetail with your organization will be our points of opportunity to work together.

The Biden administration will quickly become besieged with its efforts to undo the four years of the current administration, therefore I view moving the ball forward on our issues as something our folks in DC should lead. My expected local contributions include writing an op-ed for the Cedar Rapids Gazette every 4-6 weeks (arms control and social topics), organizing a group in Solon to help me work on issues including politics and political advocacy, and set the stage for a Democratic comeback in the 2022 election. Tall orders all.

I don’t see Iowans devoting much bandwidth to the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons) until there is an opportunity for the administration to listen and take action on the treaty. I forget who’s having the Zoom meeting that includes Rose Gottemoeller but I plan to listen in. For the time being, the U.S. government and those of the other nuclear states are ignoring the treaty. If that changes in the next couple of years I’ll get more involved.

If we don’t get organized ourselves, we will be hindered in working with others. Onward we go!

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Living in Society

AP Calls it for Biden

Sunshine and fresh air after AP calls the presidential election for Biden-Harris.

Around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, Associated Press called the presidential election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The president-elect and vice president-elect gave speeches last night and celebrations occurred around the world.

Here in Big Grove things were subdued. The township voted for Donald Trump.

With ambient temperatures in the 70s people were outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Children rode zip lines into tall piles of raked leaves as their parents observed. The trail was crowded with people, some wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, others walking dogs. I had my mask in my pocket yet didn’t wear it because I found few virus transmission possibilities.

The trail walk felt good.

Suddenly I felt differently. Like we could take it easy for a while. Like sunlight and fresh air would be enough for a few hours. Not sure how long it will last, yet that’s the human condition, finding space to breathe.

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Kitchen Garden

Fall Gardening

Fennel, red onion and bell pepper pizza

The correct way to add ingredients to a pizza is to waterproof the dough with oil, cover with tomato sauce, and add a layer of cheese. Toppings, by their name, go on top, followed by an optional light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.

I don’t follow this procedure, putting the cheese layer on top. That’s how I make a pizza and have for as long as I can remember, going back until high school.

Toppings on top worked well when I tried it, including recently. The habit never stuck.

Friday I disconnected the garden hose, drained it, rolled it up, and placed it indoors. The garden has Russian kale and collards. There are also a few stragglers in the rutabaga patch. Everything else has gone brown and is ready to prepare for winter. This year I’ll take the fences down, although I don’t always. It helps if I do as I’m that much further ahead in the spring.

There’s no news on the presidential election. Counting continues and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ race was called by Associated Press in states totaling 253 electoral votes. They are leading in four more, of which Arizona has also been called by AP. Any one of the others would put them over the top. As noted Random House copy editor Benjamin Dreyer said yesterday, “My God, the Great Vowel Shift happened faster than this.”

There was news in our congressional race. Due to a “human error” the election results that showed Mariannette Miller-Meeks ahead by 282 votes on election night were corrected and now show Rita Hart with a 162 vote lead. 393,751 votes were cast in this race so the margin has been small. It might change as additional mailed ballots could arrive by the Monday noon deadline. There is certain to be a recount, although in Iowa those typically move the results only incrementally. The big error was found during the normal auditing process, and I believe that was likely the only one. Elections officials are working diligently to follow the law. They know what is at stake.

Today is a me day so I’d better get after it. Once the results of the Nov. 3 election are certified in Iowa on Nov. 10 I’ll have more to say. Nov. 10 is also the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Republican lawsuit to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Stay safe.

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Living in Society

Reaction to 2020 Voting

Another victim of the coronavirus pandemic was Democratic hopes to make inroads into the Iowa Republican majority. Republicans held their own in the Iowa Senate and added to their majority in the Iowa House in yesterday’s election. Handicapped by a self-imposed ban against door knocking and in person events, the Iowa Democratic Party fielded a slate of good candidates and supported them by telephonic, digital and mail outreach because of the pandemic. It wasn’t enough to win.

Republicans felt few constraints in voter contact, with Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann saying they completed 3 million voter contacts in a state that turned out 1,688,088 voters, according to unofficial results. Late on Nov. 3 House Speaker Pat Grassley told Radio Iowa this story,

“We recruited good candidates. We raised good money and honestly, we worked,” Grassley said. “We had a great ground game that the Democrats did not have and I think they’re going to wake up tomorrow morning and look at themselves and say: ‘That can never happen again.’”

Radio Iowa Nov. 4, 2020

When Secretary of State Paul Pate decided to mail absentee ballot requests to all Iowa voters, it sealed the deal for Republicans with record voter turnout that favored their candidates.

Vote counting has not ended in Iowa. Mailed ballots postmarked Nov. 2 and received by election officials through noon on Monday, Nov. 9, will be counted. That will be important as in Iowa’s Second Congressional District Republican Mariannette Miller Meeks leads Democrat Rita Hart by 284 votes. Enough absentee ballots could arrive to change preliminary results, so this race is not final until Nov. 10.

President Trump had a decisive Iowa victory winning 890,444 (53 percent) votes to Joe Biden’s 754,609 (45 percent). His margin of victory is basically unchanged from 2016. He was expected to win Iowa.

Despite the fact that Theresa Greenfield was the best U.S. Senate candidate Iowa Democrats fielded since Tom Harkin, she lost with 750,400 votes to incumbent Joni Ernst’s 858,040. This was a decisive win for Ernst.

In our local state house race, Republican Bobby Kaufmann defeated Democrat Lonny Pulkrabek 11,062 to 7,299 votes. Pulkrabek’s 40 percent margin represents a decrease from 2012 and 2018 races against Kaufmann when Democratic candidates garnered 44 percent. Pulkrabek’s vote total was highest among Democrats in the five elections since 2011 redistricting.

Increased turnout due to universal absentee ballot requests provided the most help for Kaufmann since he ran unopposed in 2016.

This house district may enter the dustbin of history as the decennial U.S. Census is complete and the legislature re-draws district maps in 2021. If I were a Republican, though, why would I change it as it consistently produced Republican wins since it was formed.

I spent 12 hours at our polling place on election day volunteering as a poll observer for the Democratic Party. There were no problems and poll workers worked hard and well to accommodate every voter.

Turnout at the polls was 555 voters of whom 411 voted for Donald Trump and 128 voted for Joe Biden, a 3.21:1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats. When added to the preliminary early votes, Donald Trump won the precinct 671 to Joe Biden’s 635.

I was working to flip the precinct to Democratic this cycle yet fell short. I better understand why after watching everyone vote yesterday. Younger people born in the 1970s through 1990s are turning out for Republicans more than I expected. The reason I know this demographic is my poll observing seat was within earshot of people stating their name and birth date for the poll worker.

There is not enough information to understand the results of the election. Suffice it that at 4 a.m. the day following voting we don’t have a winner in the presidential race and enough U.S. Senate races haven’t been called to know which party will control the upper legislative chamber. There is no precedent for what’s going on in the White House this morning where Trump falsely claimed victory and asked for vote counting to stop. Nonetheless it felt important to get these reactions to the election down in writing before being engulfed in the pressing events of the days ahead.

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Living in Society

Election Day 2020

Before the Poll Opens, Nov. 3, 2010

Monday was getting ready for election day. According to the Iowa Secretary of State website, my voted absentee ballot was received by the county auditor on Oct. 7.

I also volunteered to be a poll observer for our precinct today. In the past this person struck the names of Democratic voters from a list we generated so a team in a nearby home could reach out to those who hadn’t voted. We had drivers who could pick up and transport voters to the polling place. We made calls and door knocked until everyone had been contacted. Our statehouse candidate typically stopped by for a pep talk. There was also potluck lunch and dinner — the day served as a social event. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, we are only observing voting operations, alert for trouble. No potluck meals or camaraderie for us.

I don’t expect trouble. The president’s call for his supporters to serve as self-appointed election observers sounds like a form of voter intimidation. In our rural precinct more people know each other than don’t, so if there is trouble, it is likely to be quickly resolved by poll workers. I doubt we’ll have to call the sheriff and am trained in what to do if there is trouble. There was a discussion of Iowa’s open carry law for firearms during our training.

There was a training Zoom call, a 42-page manual to read, a credential to print out and laminate, a lunch to pack. I’m planning to wear Dockers and a woven shirt, something I haven’t yet done in 2020. Also in my kitbag are two N-95 masks, the most comfortable shoes I own, and a book to read. It will be a long day. My shift begins at 6:30 a.m. and continues until everyone in line at 9 p.m. finishes voting.

Monday morning the county auditor reported 61,083 voters cast a ballot thus far. In the last presidential election the total number of votes cast was 77,476 or 84 percent of active registered voters. The coronavirus pandemic is driving early voting numbers and the county expects a new record in voter turnout percentage and number of votes cast.

I have no informed opinions or even guesses about the outcome of the election. Statewide Democratic candidates have to win our county to have a chance and Joe Biden, Theresa Greenfield and Rita Hart are expected to do well here. The irony is I won’t see as many Democratic voters at the polls because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many Democrats are voting early to avoid spread of COVID-19.

I expect to have something to say about the election results once they are known. I remember the 2000 election, though. George W. Bush won that election only after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore on Dec. 12, 2000 and vote counting ceased. In 2020 there have already been electoral shenanigans by Republicans. Sadly, mustering an army of lawyers has become a necessary part of our elections. I hope not to see any lawyers in our precinct unless they are coming to vote.

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Living in Society

After the Election

Corn Field

Because of the decennial U.S. Census, things will change in Iowa politics by the 2022 elections.

With redistricting slated before the midterms, who knows what the new districts created by the non-partisan state commission will look like? In 2001 ours looked like a salamander snaking from Springville through Mount Vernon and Solon out to Tiffin and Oxford. That district elected Democrats to the state house.

Since then, population has grown in Johnson County. I believe some of the Johnson County precincts in today’s House District 73 will be consolidated into a Johnson County dominated district. Who knows though. I recall Jeff Kaufmann was one of two votes against the current House District 73 in 2011 when he was in the legislature and before his son came to win the first four elections in our then newly minted district.

Last night the county auditor reported 56,688 ballots had been sent to voters by his office. Of those, 52,687 have been returned or 93 percent, with 3,873 outstanding. That is an amazing statistic in the last six days of the election.

Everyone expects the national news to be weird between now and election day. I plan to hunker down and do what positive things I can to increase voter turnout for my candidates. I volunteered to be a poll observer in my precinct, which is different because of the coronavirus pandemic. I had to sign a waiver that said, in part,

I acknowledge and agree that the Iowa Democratic Party cannot prevent me from becoming exposed to, contracting, or spreading COVID-19 while volunteering. Therefore, if I choose to volunteer for this project, I may be exposing myself to and/or increasing my risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. While particular rules and personal discipline may reduce this risk, the risk of serious illness and death does exist.

As Nathan Hale said on Sept. 22, 1776 just before being hanged for spying on British troops, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that on Nov. 3, and there is life after the election.

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Living in Society

Final Week

Autumn Blaze maple tree.

More than 66 million voters already cast a ballot in the general election that ends a week from today. For perspective, Donald Trump’s popular vote in 2016 was 62,984,828, Hillary Clinton’s was 65,853,514.

The coronavirus pandemic is driving the high number of early votes cast. We won’t discover who won until election staff around the country finish counting according to their local laws.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com puts it this way:

We’re in the last full week before Election Day, and as we’ve been saying for a while now, President Trump is running out of time to mount a comeback and close the gap Biden has opened in both national and state polls. We’re way past the point where a normal polling error alone could hand Trump the win. Still, Trump has a meaningful chance, per our forecast — a little worse than the chances of rolling a 1 on a six-sided die and a little better than the chances that it’s raining in downtown Los Angeles. And remember, it does rain there. (Downtown L.A. has about 36 rainy days per year, or about a 1-in-10 shot of a rainy day).

FiveThirtyEight.com election forecast, Oct. 26, 2020. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/

If the electorate fails to recognize the mistake made in 2016 and correct it, I don’t know what to say. Well I do have some things to say, but I’m keeping them to myself for the time being. It’s an uncertain year made worse by a pandemic that people, including the Iowa governor, can’t agree about. It’s been a public health crisis and a failure of political leadership. There is no separating ourselves from the impact of the coronavirus as it spreads without significant constraints. I don’t know anyone in Iowa who has not been affected in some way.

If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the election it’s hard to say what’s next. There is a lot to do. If Biden summed up the challenge succinctly by saying “Build Back Better,” the resolution of challenges facing the nation are complex. At a minimum we must implement a better plan to contain the pandemic and immediately reduce the number of ongoing infections and deaths. Simultaneously, damage done by the Trump administration must be undone if it can be. Biden may rescind many of the executive orders Trump signed, and rejoin international treaties where possible, yet there is more to it. We won’t know until the election results are known and Team Biden has a chance to look under the hood of the car wreck the current administration has been. Then we will discover the extent of the damage.

I’m optimistic there will be better days. Because of the resilience we’ve built into our Midwestern lives the last four years have been tolerated as well as could be expected. Having a Democratic president who has support in the legislative branch of government would be positive. Positive enough to provide hope after a long, dark period in American history.

Let’s hope it isn’t raining in Los Angeles on election day.